The Power of Resilience

“Smiling and breathing. These are simple things. Exercising and serving. These are simple things. Being grateful and gracious. These are simple things. Acting with humility. Acting with courage. These are simple things. Some people try to make this business of living too complicated,”
― Eric Greitens, Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life
The Open is over. You finished. Congratulations!
If you’re like me, you proved something to yourself on the topic of self-improvement:
1. You’re improving, and
2. You have the capacity to keep improving, and
3. You have the opportunity to improve more.
In other words, you’re better than you were; can keep getting better; and still aren’t your best. Three tremendous gifts. Thanks, Dave!
There were high points: PRs, new skills, faster times. You did new things or old things better–and some of you didn’t even get to use your best tricks! You could have done more–and maybe that’s the best gift of all.
The opportunity to do it again, or to do it faster next year, or to lift a bigger weight–these are what wake me up at 4am every day. Most of my effort is now spent helping coaches and gym owners, but the primary skill required for any pursuit, athletic or business, is resilience. And resilience is a lot easier when opportunities abound.
Resilience means playing the long game. It means a PR is great…but a new training program is even more exciting. It means a high Open finish is fantastic, but identifying weak links in your performance is even better. Resilience means the ability to keep playing the game for thirty years, not winning on Year Five and then fading away. It means exercising because exercise makes you happy. It means seeing a challenge as an opportunity for learning, not a task to be feared. Resilience is a mindset that I’ve been cultivating through reading Stoic philosophy, CrossFit, and entrepreneurship.
The key to resilience isn’t resolve or willpower; it’s identifying opportunities to learn and be happy. And the key to happiness is service to others. This is our greatest opportunity in life.
After being awarded a Rhodes scholarship, Eric Greitens quit school early to volunteer in Rwanda and Croatia. He lived in refugee camps. He noticed depression and anxiety only in those who weren’t busy taking care of others: the kids had natural resilience, but the teens were bored and always looking for trouble. The parents were always busy serving their kids or the grandparents, so they stayed sane. The grandparents died quickly, depressed and anxious and worn down from displacement.
Greitens eventually decided to serve as a warrior, and became a Navy SEAL. After several dangerous tours of duty, he returned to the U.S. to find hordes of veterans suffering from PTSD, depression and anxiety. Their sense of utility was over; many felt marginalized by their injury or experience. So Greitens maxed out a credit card to found his charity, “The Mission Continues,” where veterans can find new ways to help others. It’s a profound story, and you can read it here if you like.
The Open is done. But our mission continues, friends.
If you’re an athlete, your mission is to count the new opportunities for improvement you’ve been given. Be thankful for them.
If you’re a coach, your mission is to find the next podium for your athletes. Lead with joy. Serve with gratitude.
If you’re a gym owner, your mission is to teach this leadership to your coaches and ask everyone, “How can I serve you better?”
And if you’re a human, your mission is to make others happy.
I’ll be writing (and podcasting) a lot about resilience, joy, Stoic philosophy and more over the next few months. We’ll be adding a new dimension to some of our gym’s programming to help more. Greitens quotes a great line by Emerson in his book, Resilience:
“Without action, thought can never ripen into truth.”
Meaning: we have to TRY things to see if they work. We can’t just do the workouts; we have to test our results.We can’t just think about philosophy: we have to actually try to get happier through service to others.
Here’s what I want you to do this week:
Every morning with our WOD post, I’ll add one small service-based task. Do them. You’ll make someone else happy (and yourself happier in the process.) I’ll even give you the task the night before so you can prepare. These will be simple things, but the reward will be worth ten times the effort.
We call this, “Fit It Forward.” For the next five days, your mission won’t be limited to barbells, pull-ups and sprints. Your real mission, in the aftermath of the Open, is to spread joy to your family, your friends and our neighbors.
The way to stay joyful is to share joy. That’s what Easter is about (Charity gave a great example of this on Friday.) Sharing joy through service keeps you happy, strong and resilient. That’s our goal. Be happy, friends.IMG_0037
Top picture: Greg Amundson of CrossFit HQ in Kenya. We were there to help build a few schools in 2013.
Bottom pictures: Kate Foster at St. Jude Children’s Hospital. When she received her first blood transfusion for cancer, she started making a beaded bracelet: one bead for every transfusion, operation or dose of chemotherapy. This was her “bracelet”–stretching across the room–as she was preparing to leave St. Jude for the last time. She’s now doing fine.